Contrasting EFL Cup fortunes in midweek, coupled with the players available to both managers for Sunday’s fixture form the backdrop of this local derby. Wigan Athletic boss Paul Cook rang the changes, with the entire lineup that started last Saturday’s 1-0 away win over MK Dons rested for the Blackpool match and yet they were still able to progress to the second round. Lee Clark on the other hand is already feeling the bite of injuries at such an early juncture in the season; a lacklustre attacking performance characterised the slender defeat to Sunderland and he will need to find an answer to the lack of creativity in open play demonstrated thus far.
The Latics of the WN5 variety are unlikely to deviate too much from the blueprint set out by Cook; in both games so far, they have looked comfortable. Since my season preview, they have picked up Ivan Toney on loan from Newcastle United. The livewire forward has previously had successful spells in the third tier and almost always looks a handful when I have seen him in action. He will ample support from an impressive looking attacking midfield trio, each of whom will look to burst forward to keep Wigan on the front foot. Nick Powell carries the main threat but look out also for Sam Morsy pulling the strings further back.
Even some of the above individuals are doubtful to make it; both Craig Jones and Andrew Tutte looked to be carrying knocks last night sustained over the course of the encounter. This fixture will come too early for Phil Edwards to participate in, so Jones is almost certain to be risked. In Tutte’s case, there aren’t really any other players in the squad who can adequately ‘replace’ Stephen Dawson; if he doesn’t make it, it’ll either be Tsun Dai or Callum Styles, both of whom have developed physically after the last six months but might not be especially suited to the kind of contest the game is likely to be.
Jones and Greg Leigh will be tasked with providing the majority of the width; Harry Bunn and Chris Maguire (if he has recovered from his own knock) will nominally start wide but cut inside to support Jermaine Beckford. Nicky Ajose must make a marked improvement in his third outing to be considered from the get-go for the fourth; to that end, he should look to get closer to Beckford when making moves to receive the ball from the midfield or his strike partner.
As for a prediction, I think it will be a relatively comfortable home win for Wigan with a scoreline of 2-0 to the hosts. Their ability to stretch the play in the final phase, coupled with having a much fresher lineup, should be sufficient to gain maximum points.
Given the injury problems and the time it will take for the squad to gel for Bury, I would be satisfied with a points total after 10 games of the same number of points. There are some very tough looking games to play in that period and Sunday is no exception. Anything gained from the DW Stadium will be seen as a bonus.